By Sharon Atieno

In a conference themed, Laudato Si’ generation: Young people caring for our common home, held in Nairobi, different faith based organizations met to discuss way forward on saving the planet from climate change and biodiversity loss.

In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a special report which called for limiting global warming to 1.5 °C in order to reduce risks associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes such as the loss of ecosystems.

“The IPCC report clearly warns that the effects on the climate will be catastrophic if we cross the 1.5 °C outlined in the Paris Agreement,” said Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development quoting Pope Francis during his keynote address at the conference. “We face a climate emergency which could turn into a brutal act of injustice for the poor and future generations.”

A panel at the conference

The keynote address read by His Excellency Mgr. Bruno-Marie Duffé, Secretary of the Dicastery affirmed: “The planet is quickly approaching a breaking point and we cannot allow the 1.5 °C threshold to be trespassed.”

The speech which borrowed from the papal’s encyclical letter, Laudato Si’ states that the climate crisis requires our decisive action here and now.

In addition to the climate crisis, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services finds that around one million plant species and animals are threatened with extinction due to human activities.

Father Emmanuel Kakule Vyakuno, DPIHD during the conference called for greater investment in research and understanding of the functioning and modification of ecosystems.

“Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect; for all living creatures are dependent on one another,” he said, “this will entail undertaking careful inventory of these species with a view to developing programs and strategies of protection with particular care of safeguarding species headed towards extinction.”

He went on to say that we have to undergo an ecological conversion that includes the awareness that each creature reflects something of God and must be respected by human beings.

Other leaders called for special attention to be given to protect the rights of indigenous communities and their inclusion as they are the actual inhabitants of the most diverse regions of the planet.

The World Bank notes that although the indigenous people represent 5 percent of the world’s population, they occupy about 22 percent of the world’s land mass and safeguard 80 percent of the world’s remaining biodiversity.

Helena Funk and other participants

Collectively, the representatives of different inter-faith organizations called for youth involvement in saving the earth. Helena Funk, a Lutheran from Germany, one of the speakers at the conference noted that youth participation is important but they have to be given responsibilities, space and trust.

“It is important not only to say we want young people to participate but to give them real responsibilities, to give them room to bring their own ideas and to trust that these ideas are going to develop in to something,” she said.